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Ranger Danger: Blackburn's Solo Touring Program

Ranger Danger: Blackburn's Solo Touring Program

Words by Courtney Léwis

Gratitude and anxiety make for an interesting mix, but there’s little room for other emotions when you’re flying cross-country to collect an incomprehensible amount of gear from strangers sending you off on a solitary 1,800 mile tour.

Kitsbow clothing has been such an incredible comfort on this tour. Warm in the north, cool in south.

Kitsbow clothing has been such an incredible comfort on this tour. Warm in the north, cool in south.

For the past four years Blackburn Design has sponsored six cyclists to tour two Adventure Cycling Association routes across North America: the Pacific Coast and Great Divide. This year Blackburn added the TransAmerica Trail to the program, for a collective total of 8,851 miles of gravel, dirt, and road. At its heart, Blackburn is an adventure cycling company: if your gear can survive extended self-supported tours, then it’s going to make it on the road with recreational riders and commuters. It’s the daily beating over years of use, and packed into a few months, that really tests the strength of your equipment.

Riding down the Oregon coast is so gorgeous, and it's marked for cyclists the entire way.

Riding down the Oregon coast is so gorgeous, and it's marked for cyclists the entire way.

For Blackburn, the Rangers are an extension of standard product tests, and an extension of their values: adventure-seeking cyclists creating and sharing new stories on the road.

The tour has been almost entirely solo, but I was lucky enough to to catch my friend David Wilcox of The Athletic on my way out of Portland for a day of riding.

The tour has been almost entirely solo, but I was lucky enough to to catch my friend David Wilcox of The Athletic on my way out of Portland for a day of riding.

It’s not just Blackburn gear—racks, bags, lights, locks, mirrors—that we’re using on our tours. We’re also equipped with gear from seven other sponsors who joined Blackburn’s Ranger Program: helmets from Bell, camping gear from Big Agnes, shoes from Giro, clothing from Kitsbow, bikes from Niner, saddles from Brooks England, tires from WTB, and components from SRAM.

For the past five weeks I've been on tour down the West Coast on the Niner RLT, the aptly named “Road Less Traveled.” It's a highly-traveled road tour, and my RLT Steel is outfitted with the 11-speed SRAM 1x. As far as self-supported camp touring goes, this is true luxury.

PCH keeps it real. Lots of winding climbs and rocky shores.

PCH keeps it real. Lots of winding climbs and rocky shores.

We're around 1,600 miles in at this point with the final stretch in sight. The road and the gear have been good to me.

To keep things exciting (or is it more separation anxiety?) I have my nine-pound pomeranian along for the ride. We shipped ahead the best-of-the-best Weruva dog food along the route to keep Giselle happy and healthy as she soaks in the sights of the Pacific Ocean.

This has been my first extended tour with Giselle, but I have enough experience commuting around Brooklyn to know that she’s happy napping while I bike her around. We’ve had many long days of slow riding, lots of snacking, and a few hikes along the coast. There's nothing like waking up to mountains and seashores with good coffee and the great company of one tiny, quiet, and fluffy companion.

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You can learn more all six Blackburn Rangers—each with their own incredible story and impressive illustration—at blackburndesign.com/out-there.

To view my route in detail, check out the Adventure Cycling Association’s website: adventurecycling.org.

 

Follow Courntey (and Giselle) on Instagram @tipsytea

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